Sep 19, 2014

Now See Hear! Phonofilm on the radio.

The Library of Congress now has a blog associated with its National Audio-Visual Conservation Center: "Now See Hear!" Today's post to the LOC blog is something I worked on with Head of the Moving Image Section, Mike Mashon, and another person whose work I love, James Irsay, best known from his years of radio programming at WBAI-FM in New York. A treat to get to share the space with such a learned, generous wit (who I've never met).

Our post of September 18, 2014, bears the title "78 RPM Records, Internet Radio, Phonofilms, and a Blog: Now That’s Media Convergence!" Its subject is the media career of a once popular but now obscure musical entertainer, Charles Ross Taggart.

It was a curious set of circumstances that led to this curatorial encounter. 
Later I will post a longer historical piece -- to appear here at the Orphan Film Symposium blog -- about this short sound film that I heard tell of on the radio: 'The Old Country Fiddler' at the Singing School (De Forest Phonofilms, 1923).  There's a surprising postscript to this story, but too long to recount just now. 

Please have a look and listen to "Now See Hear!"   


p.s. The song Taggart sings in the film is "Cousin Jedediah," written in 1863. He sings, as he tells us, only the first verse and chorus. Lyrics to all four verses can be found at the Public Domain Music website ( 

Oh! Jacob, get the cows home and put them in the pen, For the cousins are coming to see us all again, The dowdy's in the pan, and the turkey's on the fire, And we all must get ready for cousin Jedediah.  
CHORUS Cousin Jedediah, There's Hezekiah, And Asariah, And Aunt Sophia, And Jedediah, All coming here to tea, Oh! wont we have a jolly time, Oh! wont we have a jolly time, Jerusha put the kettle on, We'll all take tea.

Images from the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection,
Sheridan Libraries Special Collections, Johns Hopkins University.

And "Morning Irsay" airs live from 10:00 am to 12 noon, Fridays, on WBAI-FM and (NB: Recordings of the program are streamable, but only archived for two weeks before disappearing!)


Sep 13, 2014

After Orphans, a Thanhouser tour of Overamstel

It's hard to think of anyone more wholeheartedly dedicated to orphan film rescue and restoration than Ned Thanhouser, a regular symposium attendee and this year a presenter, with the newly preserved 1915 comedy short Clarence Cheats at Croquet (now online). 

The nonprofit Thanhouser Company Film Preservation enterprise has tracked down some 225 of the more than 1,000 films produced by his grandparents' company between 1909 and 1917. A dozen DVD releases later, next month he will debut his documentary The Thanhouser Studio and the Birth of American Cinema at the Giornate del Cinema Muto, in Pordenone, Italy.

Following that, in December, we'll see the release of a double DVD set of the Thanhouser films held by EYE Netherlands Film Institute. Meanwhile, Ned offers this preview of one of the bonus features. The documentary begins, generously, with a nod to Orphans 9 in Amsterdam, as it takes us inside EYE's noted archive. Guest starring silent film curator Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi and restorationist Annike Kross.

Read more at, which includes full access to the encyclopedic history by Q. David Bowers

And the Orphan Film Symposium thanks Ned for giving attendees of the Amsterdam edition complimentary copies of the Dickens disc, with the three-reeler David Copperfield (1911) and the two-reel Nicholas Nickleby (1912), with music by Philip  Carli.